August 21, 2010

Text Messaging to Find Out Wait Times for Medical Services?

I came across this interesting service offered by a Massachusetts hospital whereby patients can text message the hospital and get an immediate text message back with what the current wait times are in the Emergency Room. (Here's a news article describing the service.)

Which got me thinking... how can text messaging (in general) be used to allow communication between a patient and medical services overall. This would save time and money (frees up a secretary who would otherwise be fielding phone calls) and improve patient satisfaction.

For example... how can it be used to inform patients with wait times in a medical office like ours?

I can think of 2 ways going about establishing this:

1) Purchase a new cell phone and advertise the number for patients to text message inquiries. Of course, I would have to foot the bill of the cell phone as well as subscription plan... as well as dedicate a staff member to reply to all incoming messages.

2) Obtain my very own text messaging short code (ie, 303303) and keyword (ie, WAITTIME) and replies would automatically specify wait times. Of course, I would have to purchase my own short code from CSCA (administration that offers the short code) which can run anywhere from $1000/month for a custom short code to $500/month for a random one. I would also have to dedicate a staff member to keep the wait times up-to-date. However, with this service, I would be able to charge a certain amount per text request and potentially recoup the cost of the service.

In the end... not sure if such a service will ever be offered in a small medical practice like ours, but certainly worth considering in larger health organizations.
Fauquier blog
Fauquier ENT

Dr. Christopher Chang is a private practice otolaryngology, head & neck surgeon specializing in the treatment of problems related to the ear, nose, and throat. Located in Warrenton, VA about 45 minutes west of Washington DC, he also provides inhalant allergy testing/treatment, hearing tests, and dispenses hearing aids.

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